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What Does Male Fitness Look Like

Photo Courtesy: WWE

Photo Courtesy: WWE

Growing up in the early 90's I spent a large amount of time watching WWF wrestling. These larger than life men running around in their underwear with muscles captivated me. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Slyvester Stallone were all over the movie screens with their oiled up muscular bodies; what boy didn't want to be like Rambo or the Terminator! I wanted to be like them.

5'7" 135lbs

UThat was me my senior year of high school. And this was AFTER discovering what a gym was. I had gained 10 solid pounds over the summer and was "on my way" to being like these guys I idolized as a little boy. 

Today I have a different perspective on the "ideal" male physique. Are we driven to want big, lean muscles because that's something we legitamely want or have we been told by others that's the physique we should aspire to?

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Most men interested in fitness have seen this meme on the internet. From a performance stand point it doesn't make any sense. The activities while similar (both are running) require two completely different physiological adaptations. One is endurance related and the other is power based. To compare the two is apples and oranges.

What I get from this photo dives deeper into the consciousness of Men. It illustrates the point that we should want to be big and muscular. But Why? From an early age we're told that unless you're big and muscular, that you weren't a "real man". Hell even our action figures were buff! So If you don't look like an upside triangle with a giant V-taper, you don't fit society's ideally male body. You aren't built for survival.

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Does this mean you think the marathoner isn't fit? 

Fitness means a lot of different things. I believe being fit comes in a variety of shapes, forms and modalities. Each physique is capable of things the other cannot do. It doesn't mean one is better than the other, it simply means they're different. 

"That dude is scrawny"

So what?
Why does it even matter? I believe it comes down to this: 

How big is big enough?
How strong is strong enough?
How fast is fast enough?

I would argue that unless your job is professional bodybuilder, weightlifter or athlete there should be more or less a target for you to aim for. Why do we lift weights, run and eat well? Other than looking good, its to live a long healthy life. Yes you should strive to always be getting better, but just because someone doesn't fit YOUR ideal depiction of fitness doesn't make them or their goals lesser than.

I'm sick of hearing bodybuilders saying those powerlifters are fat. 

I'm sick of weightlifters saying those bodybuilders aren't functional or mobile.

I'm sick of runners saying I don't do weights because then I'd be slow like those powerlifters.

Regardless of what you enjoy doing, there's A LOT to learn from each other. So instead of focusing on all of our short comings, we should be helping each other get better and be happy. But a lot of guys won't because talking smack is easier than raising each other up, because putting others down means you're a man. A real man, right?

I say that's one insecure man, now could you oil me up while I wear my man thong-singlet for my 10k meet?

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"Speed" Ladder Doesn't Build Speed

A starting point would be discussing populations that would benefit from using a speed ladder: beginners, youth and/or out of shape deconditioned individuals. You know what else would improve their general fitness, strength, power and endurance? ANYTHING! 

There are "speed" coaches out there who use the ladder drills with their youth population and see great results. Likewise trainers who use them with the elderly population and see an improvement in movement and balance. But I would argue they could perform a rudimentary movement pattern for an hour once a week and produce similar benefits. This holds true for individuals who has less than a year of formal training. 

The speed ladder is often used as a tool to improve athletic performance including speed and agility. Lets go over what speed and agility really means in the context of athletics. 

Speed involves covering more ground in a shorter period of time. If you can run 100 meters in less time after 1 month of training, you've improved your speed. The basic principles to improving speed is increasing stride frequency to go with stride length as a means of quantifying speed improvement. It's often thought of in more linear movements like the 40yard dash shown here by NFL Running Back Chris Johnson. 

Agility is your ability to change direction rapidly while being able to apply more horizontal force into the ground at an angle different than your current direction. To do this effectively your legs must be outside the vertical position of the center of your mass. If your center of mass doesn't move, you won't change directions. All you'll do is move your legs and not fall on your face. Agility often goes hand in hand with change of direction.

Anything we perform in the gym is done to improve general physical preparedness for athletics. Any result to tie-in athletic performance to a drill is pointless since there is a lack of specificity to the activity. Sports in itself is chaotic by nature, and running a linear pattern won't do much to get you ready for the reactive nature of the beast.. 

Speed and agility are based on rate of force, meaning if you go through the ladder at a sub maximal rate, you'll only improve your conditioning. Likewise any true speed training needs to be done with adequate rest periods, anything less than that you'll simply be performing cardio. For any training modality to work, it has to replicate or produce fundamentally similar benefits as the end goal. The S.A.I.D (specific adaptations to imposed demands) principle applies here, your training needs replicate force, rate of force application, metabolic and neural demands of an activity to have true carry over. 

Ladder drills can be very effective as a warm up for true speed training. It can help load and unload the muscles, tendons and incorporates some cardio. Technique needs to be the focal point, so skip the fancy footwork you saw on youtube.

Agility training involves a rapid change of direction from the initial direction of momentum. The most effective way to change direction involves having the legs move well outside of the vertical alignment of the center of mass, and driving into the ground at as horizontal of an angle as possible to create a strong drive against the ground. Momentum can also be overcoming inertia if you aren't already moving. This rapid change from no movement to movement could be considered a “first step,” which does not fall neatly under traditional speed training. The best example of agility would be NFL great Barry Sanders, always amazing to watch!

While ladder drills involve a rapid change of direction from one position to another, the direction one applies force is more linear than horizonatal. As a result any movement outside the center of mass is usually pretty tiny compared to more conventional agility training. Ladder drills would work well as a warm up for the same reasons mentioned above for speed, but in terms of developing higher levels of agility, it may not be as beneficial. It could be incorporated in sub-maximal workouts to involve some change of direction with low loads to stay sharp.

Like with the smith machine and bosu ball, every tool has a job in the gym. The ladder is great when used appropriately. It does very little to build top end speed, agility or quickness compared to conventional training. Relying on the speed ladder as a main cog to your training might actually make the athlete slower.

It's great when used for conditioning, rehabbing and as a warm up for much higher impact movements but as a stand alone training tool, it won't make you an Olympic sprinter any time soon. 

Why I Don't Take Shirtless Selfies

“Success and longevity in the fitness industry are created with integrity, substance, and hard work…not with scantily-clad selfies.”- Tony Gentilcore

In an industry filled with photoshop and hyperbole, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to sift through the hucksters to find legitimate sources to learn from. Thanks to platforms like Instagram and Facebook, trainers have been able to lean on technology to work with even more people than ever before. But for every Tony Gentilcore, there will be dozens of “internet trainers” who couldn’t name their glutes even if the were sitting down!

To continue reading: http://bit.ly/whyidonttakeshirtlessselfies